Aimee Sadler Dog Trainer Dogs Playing for Life Founder

Aimee Sadler is the Founder of Dogs Playing for Life™...An Enrichment Program for Shelter Dogs Featuring Play Groups.  Ms. Sadler is a nationally recognized trainer specializing in behavioral problems. Her techniques have been derived from over twenty-five years of professional work with multiple species, from dogs to cats, from exotics to marine mammals.

Aimee’s childhood passion for animals turned into a career in 1987 at the onset of her apprenticeship at Magic Mountain’s dolphin and sea lion show in southern California. From there Aimee was offered a position of leadership at the park’s wild animal show where she performed on stage with exotic animals in addition to touring with the creatures to better educate children. From her innate desire to help animals, she then took a position with the American Humane Association, responsible for the monitoring of  “animal actors”. This exposure resulted in her transition as the compound manager of Birds and Animals Unlimited, one of Hollywood’s top animal training facilities. Aimee then founded the animal rentals division of Fourth Cub Productions, Inc., where she supplied well-trained animals for numerous television commercials and music videos.

Over the years while Aimee developed her private dog training business, she maintained strong affiliations with rescue organizations. Since 1998, Aimee’s main interest has been working with shelter dogs, ever since her private client sent her to the Southampton Animal Shelter to spend her session time with their dogs instead. Ever since, Aimee’s vision has been to create and implement a training and behavior program that would prove to be invaluable to the well-being of dogs in shelters everywhere.

Dogs Playing for Life™ seminars and training have been provided to more than 160 organizations internationally. Aimee presents consistently at animal welfare and professional dog training conferences, such as HSUS’ Animal Expo, Best Friend’s Annual Conference, Masters in Behavior Conference, the No Kill Conference, and the International Association of Canine Professionals Conference. Aimee’s programs have assisted multiple shelters in achieving industry-leading success as open admission shelters saving more than 95% of their shelter dogs!

In recognition of her work, Aimee has been honored with the Henry Bergh Leadership Award in 2011 in addition to being recently inducted into the Members Hall of Fame for the International Association of Canine Professionals. From the popularity of the program and the measured results in life-saving, Dogs Playing for Life™ was recently featured in the Television Series, ‘Shelter Me – New Beginnings’ airing on PBS.

Aimee currently resides in Longmont, CO, with her husband and their very full family including five sons, four dogs, and two cats.

Emily Grossheider Dogs Playing for Life

Emily was raised by a lab mix & two cats in Northern California. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Emily accepted a position at Dog Adoption and Welfare Group where she increased adoptions by more than 100%. 


Following her tenure at DAWG, Emily became the Director of the Santa Ynez Humane Society. In her ongoing efforts to improve the training of her staff and ultimately enrich the lives of the animals in her charge, Emily met the Dogs Playing for Life team, which she enthusiastically joined as Director of Development in 2015. Since then, Emily has earned accreditation as a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA), been promoted to Chief Innovation Officer at DPFL, and has earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration, with an emphasis on nonprofit management. 


Emily lives in Santa Barbara, California with her ornery rescue mutt Blackjack. In her free time, she can be found on the beach or teaching her 4 nieces and nephew how to beg their mothers for a rescue puppy.

Mike Kaviani Dogs Playing for Life

Mike Kaviani began working with shelter animals at the Irvine Animal Care Center in California when he was 18. His “3rd Chance for Pets Program” received national recognition when IACC was given the 2007 Shelter of the Year award primarily due to this program.


In 2010, Mike became the Director of Training and Behavior at the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. At SASF, he worked under the guidance of Aimee Sadler, and together their implementation of enrichment and behavior programs with a foundation of daily playgroups resulted in the shelter consistently maintaining top marks in save rate, length of stay, and return rates. These efforts would ultimately become the core programs for the national non-profit organization, Dogs Playing for Life.


In the Spring of 2012, Mike brought these DPFL programs to Austin, Texas where he joined forces with Dr. Ellen Jefferson and became the Dog Behavior Program Manager for Austin Pets Alive! APA! had already achieved a 90% Save Rate for the entire city of Austin, and Mike’s focus was to save the last 10%, which primarily comprises large dogs with behavior issues. The city’s current canine save rate now holds steady at 98-99%. As Dog Behavior Manager, he conducted daily dog playgroups, provided training and behavior modification, taught weekly volunteer training classes, trained shelter interns, and oversaw the Canine Good Citizen and Adoption Follow-Up Training Programs.


In 2016, Mike took on the role of Director of Lifesaving Operations with Austin Pets Alive! As Director of Lifesaving Operations at APA!, Mike provided immediate and ongoing support, leadership, and problem-solving for the shelter’s staff and volunteers in all of APA’s animal care programs. In addition to these on-site responsibilities, Mike was tasked with innovating new solutions in areas such as length of stay, animal care and enrichment, dog behavior and training solutions for the last 5%, volunteer engagement, and retention, and creating national lifesaving models and best practices. 


Through the Maddie’s Lifesaving Academy, Mike was also the Maddie’s Director of Canine Lifesaving where he trained and consulted with shelter professionals from around the country to increase national lifesaving efforts. While in Austin, Mike also served on Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission. 


In the Summer of 2018, Mike accepted the position of Director of OC Animal Care in Orange County, California. OCAC is the largest animal shelter in Orange County, taking in approximately 18,000 animals per year. During Mike’s time in Orange County, he led the shelter to an over 10% increase in total save rate in just one year. 


Lastly, at the start of 2020, in an effort to make a more immediate and widespread impact on the lives of shelter dogs, Mike made the decision to rejoin Aimee Sadler and Dogs Playing for Life and became the Chief Program Officer. As CPO, Mike leads all core programming and works with shelters across the country to increase the quality of life and lifesaving efforts for shelter dogs.

Kirsten spent 20 years in the Windy City, volunteering at shelters and rescues, leading to the founding of Next Stop Home Chicago, a support program for shelters and rescues. As a Certified Dog Trainer and having learned about DPFL playgroups, Kirsten saw the difference it made for the dogs, and immediately participated in our Mentorship programs. This led to working with local shelters and rescues to help them with their playgroup programming and some of their more difficult dogs. Kirsten saw the opportunity to help dogs all over the country and joined the DPFL team to lead the Canine Center Florida operations. Since Florida is a brand new world, Kirsten spends her off time exploring the new surroundings with her pups!

Presenters and Leads

Kodi Sadler Lead Trainer Presenter DPFL

Kodi Sadler is proud to be one of the Dogs Playing for Life’s Lead Instructors providing playgroup training to shelters internationally. His love of all dogs and his comfort working with large groups has been a prevalent part of his life since before he can remember.


As Aimee’s oldest son, his earliest memories include waddling around amidst the ever-changing large pack of owned and rescued dogs that cohabitated with the Sadlers while in training.

Ally Tio Lead Trainer Dogs Playing for Life

Ally Tio was born and raised in Wisconsin, surrounded by a variety of pets and livestock since before she can remember. She began volunteering at shelters in Milwaukee and was instantly aware of the impact needing to be made for these dogs. 


She then moved to Austin, TX, and began volunteering at Austin Pets Alive! before quickly accepting a position there. Austin Pets Alive! opened up a whole new world of behavior modification and enrichment that intrigued Ally. 


After a year, Ally accepted the Playgroup Coordinator position and worked diligently to expand the program. Her natural comfort around large groups of dogs allowed her to progress the population at APA! quickly. After traveling to Dogs Playing for Life’s Canine Center Florida and working as a handler for a few days, Ally was inspired to continue her training with DPFL. 


Now, a lead trainer at CCF, Ally is excited to continue to learn and share her knowledge with others! She is inspired by the growth her own dog has overcome behaviorally and hopes to be a voice for those dogs in need.


Rob Andrews Handler DPFL

Rob Andrews was born in York, England where he first discovered his love of dogs watching the shepherds herd their sheep with Border Collies. He moved to the United States with his parents as a child before returning to England where he attended college in Newcastle, obtaining his A-levels before deciding to move back to the US and obtain his associate's degree in computer programming. While in school he started working at a local pet store where his passion for animals was reignited.


He became a certified dog trainer and nutrition expert during his 3 years working at the store before deciding to branch out on his own doing in-home dog training.


In 2017 he decided that his true passion laid in saving the lives of shelter animals so he moved to Thomasville, GA, and started working as a kennel attendant at the local humane society. His passion and dedication for the animals were quickly recognized and in short order, he moved into the kennel manager position. While in this role Rob was instrumental in drastically increasing transport and lifesaving at his shelter. He also committed himself to find ways to increase the well being of the animals during their stay, one major way of doing this was playgroups which he started running regularly.


In 2019, Rob attended a DPFL seminar and instantly fell in love with the nonprofit, its people, and the goals they aim to achieve as an organization. He applied for a position at DPFL the next day and was brought onto the team in late 2019. Rob is currently a canine handler at Canine Center Florida and is growing his understanding of our furry friends every day.

Willan Sadler Trainer DPFL

Willan Sadler has been a member of the Dogs Playing For Life team for roughly 4 years. Willan works as an instructor for playgroup seminars all over the U.S. and as a handler at DPFL's Canine Center Florida. One of the things that Willan finds most exciting about working with DPFL is the idea of helping shelters get to Every Dog, Every Day--DPFL's guiding principle of each shelter dog getting meaningful time out of their kennel each day. As a team, we truly strive to serve as many animals as we possibly can, either through CCF or through the nearly 300 shelters we've had the opportunity to work with on implementing our playgroup program.

Cathy Hyland with her two dogs

From the time she was young, Cathy always enjoyed playing with dogs. The large crazy ones were always her favorites. She would work with family and friend’s dogs but couldn’t go into the shelters because she found them too depressing.


In 2017, she decided that she needed to “toughen up” and help the dogs in the shelter that really needed it. She walked into Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter and was struck by how happy and well cared for the dogs were. She began volunteering there and would focus on the high-energy dogs that really needed an outlet. As a runner, she would spend afternoons running dogs all over the city.


Right at that time, CCAS was taking baby steps into running Dogs Playing For Life playgroups and Cathy joined and instantly saw what a game-changer playgroups were for the shelter dogs. A year later, DPFL came to CCAS and put on the Dogs Playing For Life seminar and from that point on playgroups really took off at CCAS with the dogs reaping the rewards.


Shortly after the seminar, she was made a playgroup leader. Every New Year’s Eve, Cathy facilitates a New Year’s Glowing Eve playgroup, which both dogs and humans love! In 2019, Cathy decided it was time for a career change. She wanted to give back and help as many misunderstood dogs as possible, and working for Dogs Playing For Life was the obvious choice.


She loves working with the dogs and the knowledgeable staff at the Canine Center Florida, where she works as a handler. She especially enjoys taking her lunch break and hanging out with one lucky dog in the fenced 13-acre free roam yard where they go jogging, play fetch, or simply enjoy the sun.


Cathy resides in North Olmsted, Ohio, with her two shepherd mixes, Rocky and Jet. Jet is a playgroup rockstar and is a helper dog in playgroups (she goes with Cathy on her days off where she continues to run playgroups twice a week at Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.)

Kelsey had the chance to travel the country as a youngster, with the family deciding to make Florida their home base in 2010. Being the self-described 'typical animal lover kid', Kelsey pursued a variety of roles working with animals, finding her passion as a Vet Tech. Saving lives proved to be hugely rewarding, but after a few years, Kelsey realized there was something more, remembering time spent training her own pup and the joy she experienced. Kelsey joined the CCF team to fulfill her drive to help improve the lives of animals, bringing her Vet Tech, handling, and training experience to help the dogs succeed. When she's not working, she's running, hiking, or kayaking, but an occasional bundle up and movie day can hit the spot too!

Jessica Johnson Trainer

Jessica was born and raised in the small town of Moultrie, GA, where she discovered her passion for animals as a child while routinely feeding and checking up on the many neighborhood strays. She recognized that this was what she wanted to dedicate her life to and at her earliest opportunity, in 2015, she began a work-study program while attending high school. She worked and volunteered at the local shelter discovering she had a natural ability for bonding with the dogs and identifying great matches for adopters.


After graduating high school in 2016, she immediately took a full-time position at another humane society in Thomasville, GA, where she greatly expanded her knowledge of behavior and enrichment for shelter animals. She worked closely with the shelter’s behavior consultant to develop a system for creating and maintaining behavior personality profiles, as well as increasing and varying the enrichment given to the animals on a daily basis. She then moved over to the intake/isolation area of the shelter where she learned how to provide medical care, initial assessments, and deal with the more difficult dogs, eventually becoming the intake manager.


While in this role, she helped implement new protocols for the care and treatment of the animals and she also recognized the need for enrichment and love that a dog requires upon intake to create a positive association with a shelter.


In late 2019, she attended a Dogs Playing for Life seminar and was excited by the passion the team had for providing loving care for Every Dog, Every Day, and she quickly applied for a position. At the start of 2020, she joined the DPFL team in Florida and is expanding her knowledge and understanding of dog behavior on a daily basis.

Atlanta, GA born and raised, Laura joined the Canine Center team with nearly a decade of professional canine experience. Her hobby, showing Adult Hunter Class horses adds great cross-species perspectives to our work while Laura's animal welfare background, in roles such as Adoption & Foster Manager and Animal Help Specialist, brings the shelter perspective as well. In her free time, Laura has earned a Masters in Nonprofit Management!

Brittany is a Florida native and has always had a passion for animals. Her animal welfare career has included working with primates, in a farm sanctuary, ultimately discovering her passion for working with dogs. Spending that time in the shelter environment proved to be exactly the right path, working exclusively with dogs over the past few years, Brittany decided it was time to take on the next challenge in her career and joined the Canine Center team! When she's not working with the dogs at the center, she's at home working with her own pack!

Ambi has been a life-long animal lover. She grew up in Tennessee, moved to central Florida in 2015, and shortly afterward began to volunteer at a local SPCA, where she discovered her passion for working with dogs. Serving in roles from kennel tech to management, Ambi decided that helping teach dogs was the next course in her professional journey. Joining the Canine Center Florida, Ambi is bringing her years of shelter experience to the DPFL team! Now residing in North Florida, Ambi enjoys her Mom time the most, with a little baking and personal pet time sprinkled in for good measure!

Canine Center Florida Team

Alex Lopez Canine Care AttendantAlex was born and raised in Florida. She grew up on a farm so caring for livestock has always been her way of de-stressing. She acquired her first pet, an English Mastiff, at the age of two and has had dogs ever since. She is thrilled for the opportunity to work at Canine Center Florida. Caring for animals has always brought her joy and knowing that she's giving them the love they need before they find their forever homes makes her even happier. They might be part of our world but, to them, we are their entire world. 

Administrative Team

Laura Revier DPFL Shelter Support Coordinator

Lauren Revier developed a deep love for dogs at a young age, but her formal introduction to animal welfare came when she joined the Dog TLC volunteer program at Longmont Humane Society in 2013. She was so drawn to the dogs, the people, and the work there that she applied for a job after four short months and began working as a Client Care Team Member, facilitating animal intakes and adoptions while still volunteering her time walking and learning to handle more challenging dogs.

From 2014 to 2016, Lauren held the position of Public Training Program Coordinator, overseeing the public dog training and Adoption Follow-Up programs, teaching public training classes and one-on-one sessions, providing over-the-phone behavioral consultations and counseling for adopters and potential private training clients, and running puppy playgroups. She left this position in 2016 but has continued to teach classes and conduct private and adoption follow-up sessions.

Upon leaving her full-time job at Longmont Humane Society, Lauren worked for four years at a criminal justice consulting firm where she performed project management and coordination while also conducting research, administering surveys, and writing reports and implementation guides.

Lauren was thrilled to return to animal welfare, joining DPFL as its Shelter Support Coordinator in December 2019. She holds a master's degree in Criminology, Law, and Society from George Mason University, and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her husband, Jeremy, and their three adopted dogs.

Board of Directors

Pic & Text

Dogs live to play, now let them play to live.

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